County eyes alternative means to dispose of trash
Commissioners Gardner, Jenkins to attend conference this month about other options; county has not abandoned incineration
Two Frederick County commissioners announced Wednesday that they will attend an international conference in Philadelphia this month to learn more about trash disposal options beyond incineration.
Commissioners Charles A. Jenkins (R) and Jan H. Gardner (D) said they are looking at the county's options in part because of residents' opposition to incineration expressed at two public hearings last month.
They said they have not abandoned a proposal to build a $527 million incinerator, or what some people call a waste-to-energy facility because it burns trash to generate electricity.
But they want to hear about other option from waste experts from all around the world at the 24th International Conference on Solid Waste Technology and Management in Philadelphia from March 15-18.
While attending the conference, Gardner and Jenkins will explore the model of an Israeli ArrowBio, which five months ago opened a 300-ton-per-day plant outside Sydney, Australia, that uses water to separate trash.
Jenkins said he has researched the company's process, and it has an attractive price tag and good reputation in gauging environmental impact. He estimated the price tag at $75 million to $100 million, but stressed that his number was a guess based on Australia's models. Frederick would have to build one twice as big, and its needs could be different, which would affect the price, he said.
And ArrowBio's process still leaves some trash that must be disposed of, and Frederick would have to find a way to deal with that, Gardner said.
Both Gardner and Jenkins stressed they have not chosen ArrowBio, but they are interested in learning more about its technique.
"I know for a lot of folks who have followed this process, they may be saying enough study … or conversely, some are saying the process has been too rushed … this trip will accomplish both," Jenkins said.
"While the procurement process continues on waste-to-energy, more research is being done."
Frederick County commissioners are considering a proposal to build a $527 million incinerator with Carroll County on "the McKinney site," which is located in Buckeystown between Interstate 270 and Md. Route 85 near the Monocacy National Battlefield
The proposal calls for Frederick to pay for 60 percent of it, and Carroll to pay for 40 percent of it.
Carroll County commissioners are waiting on Frederick commissioners to make a decision.
And Frederick commissioners are waiting for county staff to present another financial analysis of the project before deciding when to vote on it.
It is difficult to predict when the financial work will be complete, Gardner said, because more questions could arise.
County staff is analyzing how different waste disposal scenarios would affect tipping fees (the price per ton that haulers pay to dispose of the garbage), and the system benefit charge (which appears on property tax bills and helps pay for trash disposal).
The tipping fee is $76 per ton. The system benefit charge is $80 per single-family home in fiscal 2009, but will increase to $88 in fiscal 2011. The charge for multi-family homes is $44, and will increase to $49 in 2011.
Because there is no set date for when the staff work will be complete, Gardner said she cannot predict when the vote will be.
She also said at a Feb. 17 public hearing that she feels the commissioners "should take a pause" from the incinerator issue, which could possibly defer the vote even further.
Michael G. Marschner, Frederick County's director of Utilities and Solid Waste Management, said the analysis will compare what the fees and charges would be if the county continues to ship waste out of state vs. building an incinerator.
If Frederick commissioners vote to build an incinerator, then Carroll commissioners would vote on whether or not they want to join Frederick.
"We're waiting for Frederick County to make a decision," said J. Michael Evans, director of the Carroll County Department of Public Works. "If Frederick decided to build a project at 1,500 tons per day, then we would anticipate being invited to join them; that's been the nature of the project since the beginning. … Then we would have to make a decision whether to say yes' or not, but we can't say yes' without being asked, and we can't say no' without being asked. It's kind of like waiting for a prom date."
Carroll may not have to wait long, however, as the incinerator proposal could be approved by both counties as soon as "mid-April," according to Frederick Commissioner Kai J. Hagen (D), a vocal opponent of incineration.
"No specific date for a vote has been scheduled," Hagen said. "I guess the earliest we'd be looking would be mid-April if everything moved as fast as it could. We'd still have to have a meeting or two to vote, and [Carroll County] would still have to have a hearing and a meeting. Of course, that's not my preference. … I don't want it sited anywhere on the planet."
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